Writing Conferences: GO!

I’ve gone to one writing conference, retreat, or workshop every year for the past ten years. There are many reasons why and this past week, at the Pittsburgh 2015 Creative Nonfiction Writing Conference, I was reminded of many of the great reasons to attend a writing event.

1. Learning Craft 

Friday morning we were greeted with Why Creative Nonfiction Matters, by Lee Gutkind, followed by a class on The Art & Craft of Memoir by Dinty W. Moore. The afternoon included three panel discussions on Fact and Story: A Balancing Act, Pitching to Win, and Preparing for the Pitch Slam.

Saturday included How to Get Published, Platform Building, a Pitch Slam and a Story Slam.

Sunday was devoted to Master Classes on Launching a New Project, Mastering Structure, Research Techniques, Using Fiction Writing Techniques in Nonfiction, and Polishing Your Work. 

The teaching was terrific. All the lecturers were prepared and articulate. What a pleasure to sit and soak up so much good information. The coffee and great breakfast spreads didn’t hurt anything either.

2. Meet Leaders in the Writing World 

The speakers included Lee Gutkind, Dinty W. Moore, Emily Loose, Adam Kushner, Leslie Rubindowski, Torie Bosch, Jason Bittel, Rachel Ekstrom, Maggie Jones, and Saeed Jones. Before I attended this conference, this was just a list of names to me. Now it is a list of people. I’ve sat next to them, had discussions, heard their stories, seen the work they are engaged in.

Emily Loose –  AMAZING editor who has worked as senior acquisitions editor at Random, Penguin, Simon & Schuster and has signed and published 18 New York Times best sellers!

Jason Bittel – author of the crazy, kooky, incredibly interesting blog: Bittel Me This.

Rachel Ekstrom – Literary agent at the Irene Goodman Literary Agency, who has worked with St. Martin’s Press and Penguin for over a decade.

Did you get that? I talked face to face with an editor from the Big Houses. An Agent. A blogger who writes for National Geographic.

Normally, you can’t walk into the offices of these people and say, “Hi! Want to chat?” But you can go to a conference and be, for a few hours, in the same space and time. And talk. And listen. It is invaluable as an aspiring writer. It is incredible. It is a gift. 

3. Meet Fellow Writers

I came home from the conference with a dozen new writing friends. We had supper together. We talked shop. Listening to their writing stories encouraged me in my own. I met writers who were freelance full time and making it work, a clinical psychologist, a director of account planning, a neurologist working with animals and public health, an educational consultant, a professor of history. All these men and women who live … and write.

Connections with other writers is encouraging and it also opens up whole new worlds.

Julie Bettinger: freelance writer who is publishing in a whole new way with Crowd Funded Publishing at Inkshares! Wow!! I am in awe. A new way to publish and it’s working for her and I have SO much to learn. And now Julie and I are friends. And who knows what the future holds?

4. Inspiration 

I came away from the conference inspired to write better, to write more. Encouraged to hit that next book more seriously.

I came away both exhausted by late night talks (existentialism, the Talmud, Atheistic Judaism, Fiction v.s. Nonfiction, Small Press v.s. Big House, Essay set to Music, Dog Therapy) and exhilarated by having a whole free day to wander Pittsburgh.


IMG_20150521_164926520_HDR (768x1024)

IMG_20150525_122157570 (768x1024)The Very Hogwarts-ish “Cathedral of Learning” on the Campus of the U. of Pittsburgh!!

Can I go back to school … please? 

Why, yes. Yes, I can. As a matter of fact: I just did! Five whole days of creative nonfiction school.

And now? Now I’m back home. With new friends, new information, and a renewed zeal to continue this writing life, and to continue it well. Thanks to all for a most memorable week. Happy writing to us all! And special thanks to Kristina Marusic, conference coordinator / director.  You did a Great Job! I can’t thank you enough.















Jill Kandel
  • Gianna Anderson
    Posted at 12:25h, 28 May Reply

    I’m convinced.

    • Jill Kandel
      Posted at 09:37h, 03 June Reply

      Good! There are a lot of really great conferences. Hope you find a great one!

  • Dina Relles
    Posted at 04:03h, 29 May Reply

    Thank you for this post–it was great to relive the conference through your eyes! And this: ” Before I attended this conference, this was just a list of names to me. Now it is a list of people.” Yes, exactly. So wonderful and valuable to put faces and personalities to the names on a page–and to all be in the same space together for a time. I only wish we had a few more days together…until next time!

    • Jill Kandel
      Posted at 08:25h, 29 May Reply

      I agree, Dina. “A few more days together.” It’s such a pleasure to spend a few days with writer-people. Satisfying, but wanting just a little more.

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